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Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Die Fledermaus - Operetta in three acts
Libretto: Carl Haffner and Richard Genée - Revised: Peter Weiser and Otto Schenk
Gabriel von Eisenstein ... Bernd Weikl
Rosalinde ... Lucia Popp
Frank ... Erich Kunz
Prinz Orlofsky ... Brigitte Fassbaender
Alfred ... Josef Hopferwieser
Dr Falke ... Walter Berry
Dr Blind ... Anton Wendler
Adele ... Edita Gruberova
Ida ... Karin Göttling
Frosch ... Helmut Lohner
Iwan ... Karl Caslavsky
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
Ballett der Wiener Staatsoper
Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper/Theodor Guschlbauer
Recorded live at the Wiener Staatsoper, 31 December 1980
Directed for stage and TV by Otto Schenk
TDK DVD Video DV-CLOPDFM [169:00]

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This is a glorious production from Vienna of Die Fledermaus, the acknowledged ‘queen of operettas’. It is sumptuously staged and costumed in the finery of the fin de siècle style; and directed by Otto Schenk. Schenk is a popular Viennese actor, director, and theatre supreme who, himself, had played Frosch 29 times before taking the reins on New Year’s Eve 1979. The excellence of this performance, exactly one year later, is boosted by the high-spiritedness of the New Year celebrations epitomised by the Act II ball scene (see cover picture above) that has the girls and boys of the Ballett der Wiener Staatsoper letting their hair down and kicking up their heels to Johann Strauss’s Thunder and Lightning Polka.

Conductor, Theodore Guschlbauer’s vivacious direction is felt right from the word go. The Overture crackles with vitality and playful mischievousness. Lucia Popp is a street-wise and impish Rosalinde determined to teach her erring husband a lesson. Her heart-felt and stirring rendering of the Act II ‘Csárdás’ impresses strongly and she is conspiratorially cheeky in those amusing Act I trios, first with her husband and Adele in which sorrow at the prospect of his leaving is countered by the prospect of ‘while the mouse is away ... ’, then when Rosalinde and her over-amorous, over-inebriated admirer, Alfred (Josef Hopferweiser splendidly sloshed) have to explain themselves to the bewildered and suspicious Frank the prison governor. As Rosalinde’s faithless husband, Count von Eisenstein, Bernard Wenkel is raffish but also buffoonish.and sings colourfully. Brigitte Fassbaender is a celebrated Prince Orlofsky, often regarded without peer in the role - a brilliant male impersonation. His (her) drinking songs are heady, full of hedonistic joie de vivre. But it is Edita Gruberova as Adele who really steals the show, a very cheeky maid; her coquettish Act II aria, when she turns up at Prince Orlofsky’s ball in her mistress’s finery and haughtily disdains Eisenstein’s idea that she looks like his maid, draws thunderous applause from the audience.

A sparkling performance from a star cast; sumptuously staged and costumed. A real feast for eye and ear.

Ian Lace

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